September 6 1813: Byron Writes to Miss Milbanke


On September 6 1813, Lord Byron writes again to Annabella Milbanke.

Agreed—I will write to you occasionally and you shall answer at your leisure and discretion.— You must have deemed me very vain and selfish to imagine that your candour could offend—I see nothing that “could hurt my feelings” in your correspondence—you told me you declined me as a lover but wished to retain me as a friend—now as one may meet with a good deal of what is called love in this best of all possible worlds—and very rarely with friendship I could not find fault—upon calculation at least.—I am afraid my first letter was written during some of those moments which have induced your belief in my general despondency—now in common I believe with most of mankind—I have, in the course of a very useless and ill-regulated life, encountered events which have left a deep impression. Perhaps something at the time recalled this so forcibly as to make it apparent in my answer; but I am not conscious of any habitual or at least long continued pressure on my spirits. On the contrary, with the exception of an occasional spasm, I look upon myself as a very facetious personage and may safely appeal to most of my acquaintance (Ly . M. for instance) in proof of my assertion. Nobody laughs more; and though your friend Joanna Baillie says somewhere that “Laughter is the child of Misery” yet I do not believe her (unless indeed in a hysteric), tho’ I think it is sometimes the parent. Nothing would do me more honour than the acquaintance of that Lady, who does not possess a more enthusiastic admirer than myself. She is our only dramatist since Otway and Southerne; I don’t except Home. With all my presumed prejudice against your sex, or rather the perversion of manners and principle in many which you admit in some circles, I think the worst woman that ever existed would have made a man of very passable reputation. They are all better than us, and their faults such as they are must originate with ourselves. Your sweeping sentence “in the circles where we have met” amuses me much when I recollect some of those who constituted that society After all, bad as it is it, has its agrémens. The great object of life is sensation—to feel that we exist, even though in pain. It is this “craving void” which drives us to gaming—to battle—to travel—to intemperate but keenly felt pursuits of every description, whose principal attraction is the agitation inseparable from their accomplishment. I am but an awkward dissembler; as my friend you will bear with my faults. I shall have the less constraint in what I say to you—firstly because I may derive some benefit from your observations— and next because I am very sure you can never be perverted by any paradoxes of mine. You have said a good deal and very well too on the subject of Benevolence systematically exerted; two lines of Pope will explain mine (if I have any) and that of half mankind—

“Perhaps Prosperity becalmed his breast;
Perhaps the Wind just shifted from the East.”

By the bye you are a bard also—have you quite given up that pursuit? Is your friend Pratt one of your critics? or merely one of your systematic benevolents? You were very kind to poor Blackett which he requited by falling in love, rather presumptuously to be sure—like Metastasio with the Empress Maria Theresa. When you can spare an instant I shall of course be delighted to hear from or of you—but do not let me encroach a moment on better avocations——Adieu ever yours B

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